I finished Yaa Gyasi’s incredible novel Homegoing last night. It is a riveting tale of a family over seven generations that begins with two half sisters in 18th century West Africa. From the slave dungeons under Cape Coast Castle, through the Great Migration, to a doctoral program at Stanford University we witness the tragic, terrible, and beautiful cultural transitions that historian Ira Berlin would describe as the “making of African Americans.”
I’m not going to spoil it for you. Yet there is a scene that caught my attention. James, the grandson of a white British official and a Asante woman Effia, does not want to become the leader of his tribe. He chooses love over war. He opts for a simple life over being a “Big Man.” In pursuit of his passions, he visits Aunty Mampanyin, a local tribal doctor.
“Aunty,” James says, “they say that you make impossible things possible.”
She replies, “I can only make the possible attainable. Do you see the difference?”
I think this is an important way to think about our faith. Too often we appeal to faith in hopes of something “miraculous” or otherwise impossible. We spend our time praying for the divine intervention and for God to “turn our situation all the way around.” I get it. This is important and sometimes necessary.
Yet when we think of faith as making “the possible attainable,” we are doing something different, but just as necessary. Faith becomes the source of our focus. Faith becomes the fuel that catalyzes our dedication and determination. Faith fosters our ability to develop healthy, positive habits. As a result, we may find that our next miracle is already in reach. We may discover that we actually have the power to turn our situation all the way around.
Keep the Faith! Keep your Focus!
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13
Jonathan L. Walton shared a stage in Atlanta Saturday with musician Usher Raymond, actor/director Tyler Perry and music industry executive Jon Platt at Morehouse College's 29th Annual “A Candle in the Dark” Gala, honoring the achievements of men in business, entertainment and...
On Monday I served as guest lecturer in AAAS10, Introduction to African American Studies. Professors Henry Louis Gates and Larry Bobo invited me to discuss the history of African American Protestantism in the United States, a daunting task for a fifty minute time slot. Yet the assigned readings, which included Albert Raboteau’s Slave Religion and James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power, allowed me to focus on black religion as a tool of liberation from oppression.
It is always a privilege to champion the incredible efforts of our student athletes at Harvard University. Coach Tommy Amaker and the four time reigning Ivy League Champions represent what makes me proud to be at Harvard.